Friday, 23 January 2009

Butter and Cheese Factories - Part 1

The Old Cheese Factory, Berwick, constructed 1875.

In my last blog post, I reproduced a copy of an article from the Argus newspaper of September 29th, 1932 about the Cora Lynn Cheese Factory. I thought it would be interesting to find out more about Cheese and Butter Factories in the Casey Cardinia area, as dairying has played an important role in the life and the economy of the area since European settlement. Private factories, which processed milk, were erected in the mid 1800s, one of the earliest was a cheese factory constructed in the 1860s by James Buchanan, at his farm Ardblair in Beaumont Road in Berwick. However, the best known example of these factories is the Old Cheese Factory in Homestead Road in Berwick. This was erected for Sir William Clarke in 1875 and he employed Murdoch McDonald as the manager and Cheese maker. A report in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of November 17th, 1880 reports that the dairy is built specially for the manufacture of cheese, having double walls and double roof, with a space between to keep the building cool in hot weather, whilst the floor is well laid with cement. The lower room is used entirely for the manufacture of cheese, and the upper room for storing the cheeses when made. The daily work of the farm must be considerable, as two hundred cows are milked daily, and the establishment turns out 150 cheeses each week, employing about a dozen hands regularly , and at once shows the advantage of the excellent machinery in plant in use.

The property became part of a Soldier Settlement sub-division and as the tenants did not take up the option to purchase the property it reverted to the Crown. It was restored by the City of Berwick and officially opened on October 20th, 1985 as a "Centre for Cultural and Artistic Development" and can be hired out for functions and exhibitions.

Old Cheese Factory, ground floor, during 1985 renovations.

Another private cheese factory was constructed in 1892 by John Henry Smethurst on his property Glen Avis in Yannathan (pictured below). Smethurst was a pioneer in the use of machines. His dairy had a four horse-power boiler and a three horse-power Tangye engine which worked a 90 gallon separator and 200lb butter churn. He milked 75 cows at Yannathan and also had another cheese factory on his other property Lang Lang Park, at Athlone, where he milked 260 cows.
In 1888 the Victorian Parliament allocated money to establish creameries, cheese and butter factories in the Colony and in the 1890s there were over 140 of these factories in Victoria, including some in the Casey Cardinia and we will find out more about these in part two and three.

This is a photograph of the Smethurst property, Glen Avis, in Yannathan, taken from Buln Buln : a history of the Shire of Buln Buln by Graeme Butler (Shire of Buln Buln, 1979). It is now, unfortunately, out of print, but if you have an interest in the area it worth trying to track down a copy from a library or a second hand book dealer. Yannathan was part of the Shire of Buln Buln until 1893 when it was annexed by the Shire of Cranbourne. The book has an interesting chapter on dairying, where I found the information on Smethurst.

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